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Suu Kyi attacked for foreign inclusion in Rakhine body

By Kyaw Ye Lynn
August 27, 2016

Ex-government, nationalists claim Rakhine State - home to country's Rohingya Muslims - national issue, not international

YANGON, Myanmar -- Myanmar's former ruling party has said it will closely monitor a newly-formed commission set up to advise the government on resolving conflicts in western Rakhine state.

On Friday, the Union Daily -- owned by the ex-general led-main opposition USDP -- published a party announcement claiming the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State would solely focus on human rights and humanitarian needs in the state while neglecting state interests.

Rakhine houses a majority of the country's Rohingya Muslim population, whom nationalists do not see as Myanmar nationals, rather interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.

The USDP accused the government -- led by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) -- of viewing Rakhine as a regional or international issue, as the commission includes three people from outside the country.

“Therefore all citizens of Myanmar would need to closely monitor [the commission] for the national interest and national security,” it said.

Since since mid-2012, nearly 100 people have been killed and some 100,000 people displaced after communal violence broke out in the region between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims -- described by the United Nations as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has subsequently formed the commission -- chaired by former United Nations head Kofi Annan -- to finding lasting solutions to the “complex and delicate issues” in western Rakhine -- home to around 1.2 million Rohingya.

But the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) say that the commission -- composed of three international members and six from Myanmar, including representatives from the Buddhist and Muslim communities -- should not include foreign nationals, claiming the Rakhine issue as Myanmar's own internal problem.

On Thursday, Amnesty International described the commission as the most credible and independent attempt yet to address longstanding human rights violations in Rakhine.

“The inclusion of international members should highlight how the situation goes beyond Myanmar’s borders," it highlighted in a statement.

Since 2012, Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar in droves, terrified of violence that some human rights groups consider to be state sponsored.

Rights groups estimate that as many as 10 percent of the million-strong ethnic group have fled the country in search of better opportunities in Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia -- many of them paying people smugglers to help them achieve their goals.

On Friday, USDP central executive committee member Khin Yi -- who served as the immigration minister under former President Thein Sein -- also underlined to Anadolu Agency that the commission should not include foreign nationals.

“It would make Myanmar people hard to accept the commission’s findings for Rakhine issues,” he said.

The announcement comes a day after a powerful nationalist party in Rakhine demanded the government abolish the commission, stating that non-Burmese members would not be able to understand the background to and the current situation on the ground in Rakhine.

The Arakan National Party (ANP) -- which won the majority of seats in the state in last year’s election -- said the commission would ignore ethnic people's stance, and claimed it would be biased against them, citing that the commission would also examine international aspects of the situation, including the background of those seeking refugee status abroad.

“Therefore we have no confidence in the commission,” the ANP said in a statement.

The commission is scheduled to deliver a report on its findings and recommendations to the Myanmar government within twelve months of its establishment, according to an announcement from Suu Kyi’s office Wednesday.

This will involve consultations with all relevant stakeholders, international experts and foreign dignitaries, it added.

Since her party's victory in the Nov. 8 election, Suu Kyi has been placed under tremendous international pressure to solve problems faced by Rohingya but has had to play a careful balancing act for fear of upsetting the country's nationalists, many of whom have accused Muslims of trying to eradicate the country's Buddhist traditions.

Suu Kyi has, however, enforced the notion that the root of many of the impoverished region's problems are economic, and is encouraging investment in the area, which in turn the NLD hopes will lead to reconciliation between the Buddhist and Muslim communities.

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